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Meet the Howards: the new commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing and his wife, a retired colonel

Col. John Howard, the new commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing and his wife, Dana, a retired Air Force colonel. (October 2017)
Provided | Erica Fowler | 375th Air Mobility Wing
Col. John Howard, the new commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing and his wife, Dana, a retired Air Force colonel.

Two things strike you when you meet Col. John Howard.

He’s very tall: 6’4.” Yet despite his height and the uniform, he comes across as very down-to-earth.

Howard is the new commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base. He oversees about 3,000 personnel who provide airlift for senior leaders, aeromedical evacuations and air refueling. The wing also operates Scott Air Force, making Howard akin to a mayor.

Yet he was surprised when several Metro East mayors took the time to attend the change-of-command ceremony held in July.

“Honestly, Dana and I were talking, and we were like ‘Little old us. Who wants to meet us?” Howard said.

Howard and his wife, Dana Howared, are very much a team. She retired from the Air Force Reserve as a colonel in 2014.

Dana said she’s embracing the chance to be more of an advocate now that she’s no longer in the military. Still, it’s been an adjustment.

“Being in a spouse role is a little strange just because I’ve been military for so long,” she said.

The couple met in the mid-1990s when they were both active duty at McClellan Air Force Base in California. As a couple they found it difficult to get assigned to the same bases, so Dana went into the Reserve, allowing for more flexibility.

John Howard has flown multiple aircraft over his 23 years in the Air Force and been deployed to Afghanistan twice. The family has zig-zagged from assignments in California, Texas, Hawaii, Rhode Island and others.

“It really doesn’t matter where you are. It’s really about your attitude, and what you make of each assignment,” he said. “Del Rio (Texas) is not, I would argue, a vacation spot or Afghanistan,” he said. “But if you put yourself into it and try to maximize what’s there and get to know the people, it can be quite an experience.”

The Howards have two children, Emily and Kevin, now both young adults. They have the experience of so many military families of being separated during deployments and multiple moves.

During  John Howard’s last assignment as vice commander of the 100th Air Refueling Wing at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in England, Dana Howard helped implement the Spouse Resilience Program. The training helps families prepare and ultimately cope with the big stresses life in the military can produce.

She intends to help bring the program to Scott Air Force Base.

“So when you get into pressure-packed situation, you can call on those tools to really get through, and ultimately I hope it helps military families stay together,” she said.

John Howard said during his time as commander at Scott he wants to help create a culture of balance between getting the mission done and spending time with family and friends. For the Howards that means taking time to have dinner together every night, then walking their dogs together.

“We just walk around the base,” he said. “It’s a chance to decompress; it’s a chance to recharge your batteries.”

It’s clear for both service and family are the highest priorities.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.